By Monte Lazarus
Photos by Victoria Wright
Marco Island’s Charter Middle School Eagles hung on in the last two minutes of their first game to defeat Community School’s Seahawks 16-12. The game was a nail-biter for the entire second half, and wasn’t decided until the final minute.
Led by quarterback Jay Vanderjagt the Eagles scored quickly in the first quarter, and it looked like an easy win was coming. Tyler Gresham scored first, and Vanderjagt scored the second touchdown. But, things turned upside down when a succession of penalties nullified one touchdown and killed several promising drives.
The second half almost turned the game around. At halftime, head coach Mike Vanderjagt and assistants Scott Gibbs and Greg West got the Eagles to concentrate on cutting down on their penalties, but the Seahawks dominated nevertheless. The Seahawks scored their second touchdown, but missed a second attempt at a two point conversion, leaving them down by four points.
Needing a touchdown to win in the last quarter, Seahawks Ross Zepeda and Robert Devito moved the ball inside the Eagles five yard line with a few minutes left on the clock, but the Eagles defense and a rare Seahawks penalty moved the ball to the seven yard line. On third down, with seconds ticking off the clock, the Seahawks got within the Eagles two yard line. However, on last down the defense stifled an attempted sweep and the Eagles took possession – accompanied by an audible “whoosh” of relief from the coaches and about a hundred fans on the Eagles sideline. The Eagles were still in danger, but Elijah Beauplan took a handoff and scampered 65 yards deep into Seahawks territory and the Eagles win was in the books.
The Eagles defense was sparked by the interior linemen, as well as their secondary. Coach Scott Gibbs said, “The kids played their hearts out. It was hot out there and many of them played both offense and defense. The front line was great, particularly for playing so many minutes in the heat. We still have more to do on technical things, but it was a terrific effort by the whole team.”
Emmanuelle Mergue made a bit of history as the Charter School’s first female football player. She is the Eagles placekicker and came through by booting two perfect extra points as well as kicking off. Emmanuelle was even in on one tackle following a kickoff. Her two points, combined with the Seahawks two abortive two point conversions were the margin of victory.